Zim art curator makes mark in Monaco

HARARE - Zimbabwean art curator Mary Majoni recently exhibited at Art Monaco - the fastest growing contemporary and modern art fair in the French Riviera.

Dedicated to showcasing contemporary and modern art in an elegant and glamorous flare, this event attracts art and culture enthusiasts to access exclusive artwork that regularly invades the wealthy Principality of Monaco.

The event held from April 24 to 27 this year was adorned with famous and remarkable artworks from over 70 international galleries.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with the inspirational Majoni who exhibited breathtaking artworks by Zimbabwean artists at the internationally celebrated event. We spoke about the Zimbabwean artworks she took to Monaco and the role art plays in today's world.

PSN (Pam Samasuwo-Nyawiri): Who is Mary Majoni and what is your background in the field of art?

MJ (Mary Majoni): I grew up in Chitungwiza. I also lived in Mhondoro before I came to the United Kingdom (UK). I am a Chartered Accountant by profession and art is one of my passions. My love for art started when I moved to the UK and I started frequenting art galleries, watching art documentaries and reading art publications. I then felt an urge to stand up and show the world the beautiful art made in Zimbabwe.

PSN: Where do you source your art and how important is it to showcase African art in the diaspora?

MJ: I source my art from artists in Zimbabwe. I am currently limited to just Harare and Chitungwiza mainly because of logistics. In future I would like to expand to other parts of Zimbabwe. It is very important to me that I take an active role in showing the talents of the children of Zimbabwe not just to other nationals but also for the children born to Zimbabwean parents in the diaspora who have very limited or no contact at all with their homeland. My ultimate goal is to open a gallery dedicated to Zimbabwean art with permanent exhibitions for school children and adults to learn about Zimbabwean art.

PSN: Was Monaco your first biggest art exhibition?

MJ- Yes, Art Monaco was my biggest and first ever exhibition outside the UK. It brought together 70 of the best artists and galleries from around the world for a 4 day annual art exhibition in Monte Carlo. I believed in the uniqueness of Zimbabwe's stone sculptures hence I applied and was selected. The exhibition attracts a lot of locals and visitors and I also believe this is a chance for other artists and galleries present to discover unique Zimbabwean sculptures.

PSN: How does it feel to be a representative of Zimbabwe?

MJ: When I was still in Zimbabwe I had little exposure to art, however when I came to the UK I marvelled at how this country preserves, celebrates and showcase its art. It made me think more and more about art in Zimbabwe, particularly stone sculptures. To drive my ambition, I set up and registered the Heritage Art Gallery here in the UK.

PSN- Do you think that African Art is doing enough to show African culture? Or is there a lot of Western influence?

MJ- I am relatively new to the art world and I am still scratching the surface of Zimbabwean stone sculpture. Speaking from the little experience I have, the sculptures I have seen from Zimbabwe exhibit African culture and I was happy to learn that even the great Picasso drew his influences from Shona stone sculptures.

PSN: Who is your favourite artist and why?

MJ- My favourite artist is Morgen Chijumani. He is a very humble and down to earth family man. He lives in Chitungwiza, a township I grew up in. He was born in Mutare and started sculpting at age 24.He is entirely self-taught in stone sculpture. He specialises in sculpting families, female forms and water spirits. His talent is phenomenal. His older brother Edmore is also a stone sculptor.

PSN: Are you adding value to the lives of sculptors you deal with?

MJ- When I curate art, I engage with the artist directly so that he or she gets the full amount of what they charge me. Most, if not all of their money, is absorbed by daily living costs and rarely is there anything left for investment in a house or car. Most of them still live in rented properties. I know the little that I contribute also goes towards educating the artists' children and supporting extended families.

PSN: Is the current arts platform in Zimbabwe doing enough to showcase artists?

MJ: Believe it or not Zimbabwe has a lot of art exhibitions and workshops throughout the year. However, participation from locals in these events needs to increase. It is an industry that does not reward favourably hence some artists become part-time and those who choose to do it full time out of passion struggle very much to get local buyers. They rely mainly on foreign buyers and repeat business from them. Education in schools concerning local art must improve. I do remember going to Chapungu Sculpture Park as part of a paid school trip when I was in primary school. Unfortunately Chapungu has gone into liquidation.

PSN: What do you think are the major problems faced by artists in Zimbabwe and Africa at large?

MJ: They face lack of sponsorship to improve their working environment and purchase materials. They also have no resources to transport their work to bigger markets where they will get more exposure.

Mary can be contacted via her website http://www.heritageartgallery.co.uk

*Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

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ORIGINAL - 19 May 2014

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